Goenka retreats

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Goenka retreats

Postby Nibbida » Sat Aug 01, 2009 5:20 am

I was just on a retreat (non-Goekna) and someone there told me that once a person has done a Goenka retreat, if they do a non-Goenka retreat, they are not allowed back to do Goenka retreats again. I said that I never heard of this. It sounds suspect.

Is there any truth in this?
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Re: Goenka retreats

Postby Ben » Sat Aug 01, 2009 5:21 am

Hi Nibbida

SN Goenka is my teacher and I can tell you that there is not, and there has never been, any truth in that statement.
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Re: Goenka retreats

Postby Nibbida » Sat Aug 01, 2009 5:27 am

Thanks Ben. That's what I thought. I told this person that it seemed unlikely to me. I've never heard of such a thing before and it seems so contrary to everything else I've read and heard from Goenka. But it's good to have confirmation from a Goenka student.
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Re: Goenka retreats

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Aug 02, 2009 8:51 am

Hi Ben, Nibbida,

As Ben says, you can come and go to the 10 day retreats (I've only been on one - it was good - well organised, etc...). However, according to the http://www.dhamma.org web site if you want to do one of the advanced retreats you have to be committed to the technique that Goenaka teaches. Which seems reasonable. Perhaps that's where your friend is getting mixed up.

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Re: Goenka retreats

Postby rowyourboat » Sun Aug 02, 2009 9:55 am

Hi Ben,

I have heard (second hand sources) that after the first goenka retreat the yogi asked to make a formal commitment to the practice or not. Do you know if this is true?

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Re: Goenka retreats

Postby Ben » Sun Aug 02, 2009 10:10 am

Hi Mike
Yes, i think that is the case.
Hi RYB
That's not quite accurate. One can continue doing ten-day courses one after the other without making a commitment to practice exclusively under Goenkaji's tutelage.

Here are the selection criteria for all the 'old student' and long course requirements:

Special Course Qualification Requirements

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There are a number of special courses for old students in this tradition of Vipassana meditation practice. These courses have certain requirements which an old student must meet in order to qualify for admission. The basic qualification requirements are as follows:

1-Day or 3-Day Old Student Course
Completion of at least one 10-Day course with Goenkaji or one of his assistant teachers.
Those practicing energetic healing on others should not attend.
Should be keeping all precepts to the best of one's ability.

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Satipatthana Sutta Course
Completion of at least three 10-Day courses with Goenkaji or one of his assistant teachers.
Practicing this technique for at least one year.
Have not practiced any other techniques since your last course with Goenkaji or one of his assistant teachers.
Trying to maintain daily practice.
Trying to maintain five precepts in daily life and must be keeping 3rd precept (abstaining from sexual misconduct) and 5th precept (abstaining from intoxicants) from time of registration for course.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Self-course for Serious Old Students
Self-courses are for serious old students who have completed at least three 10-Day courses - the most recent being within the last two years. There are no teachers present, no student managers, no noon interviews, and no question/answer sessions at the end of the day. The evening audio discourses are required, and the students attending are responsible for playing the tape at 7pm.

Students are expected to follow the same time-table as a regular 10-Day course.
Follow all the rules and regulations (noble silence, 8 precepts, etc.) while at the center.
Have not practiced any other techniques since your last course with Goenkaji or one of his assistant teachers.
Trying to maintain daily two-hour practice since last 10-Day course.
Trying to maintain the five precepts to the best of one's ability.
Permission must be granted from an assistant teacher to attend the course.

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20-Day Course
Must be a serious old student who is committed to this technique.
Completion of at least five 10-Day courses with Goenkaji or one of his assistant teachers.
Completion of at least one Satipatthana Sutta Course.
Must have served on a 10-Day course.
Maintenance of daily practice of two hours per day for at least 2 years.
Abstaining from killing, sexual misconduct, intoxicants and keeping other precepts to the best of one's ability for one year minimum.
At least six months gap since last sat a long course.
Spouse must be supportive of partner sitting long course.

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Special 10-Day Course for Old Students
Must be a serious old student who is committed to this technique.
Completion of at least five 10-Day courses with Goenkaji or one of his assistant teachers.
Completion of at least one Satipatthana Sutta Course.
Must have served on a 10-Day course.
Maintenance of daily practice of two hours per day for at least 2 years.
Abstaining from killing, sexual misconduct, intoxicants and keeping other precepts to the best of one's ability for one year minimum.
Spouse must be supportive of partner sitting long course.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

30-Day Course
Must be a serious old student who is committed to this technique.
Completion of at least six 10-Day courses with Goenkaji or one of his assistant teachers (one to be completed after 20-Day course).
Completion of at least one Satipatthana Sutta Course.
Completion of at least one 20-Day Course.
Served at least one 10-Day Course.
Maintenance of daily practice of two hours daily for at least 2 years.
Abstaining from killing, sexual misconduct, intoxicants and keeping other precepts to the best of one's ability for one year minimum.
At least six months gap since last sat a long course
10 day interval between long course and any other course.
Spouse must be supportive of partner sitting long course.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

45-Day Course
Must be a serious old student who is committed to this technique.
Restricted to ATs and those involved with Dhamma service.
Completion of at least seven 10-Day courses with Goenkaji or one of his assistant teachers (one to be completed after 30-Day course).
Practice this technique for at least 3 years.
Completion of at least two 30-Day Courses.
Maintenance of daily practice of two hours per day for at least 2 years.
Abstaining from killing, sexual misconduct, intoxicants and keeping other precepts to the best of one's ability for one year minimum.
At least six months gap since last sat a long course.
10 day interval between long course and any other course.
Spouse must be supportive of partner sitting long course.
For first 45-Day course at least one regular 10-Day course completed after 30-Day course.
All confirmations provisional until day 30.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

60-Day Course
Must be a serious old student who is committed to this technique.
Restricted to ATs and those deeply involved with Dhamma service.
Practice this technique for at least 5 years.
Completion of at least two 45-Day Courses.
Maintenance of daily practice of two hours per day for at least 2 years.
Abstaining from killing, sexual misconduct, intoxicants and keeping other precepts to the best of one's ability for one year minimum.
At least six months gap since last sat a long course
10 day interval between long course and any other course.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Teacher's Self-Course
Must be a serious old student who is playing or likely to play an important role in the spread of Dhamma.
Must be practicing Vipassana exclusively (not practicing any other meditation techniques).
Must be maintaining a daily practice of two hours per day.
Abstaining from killing, sexual misconduct, intoxicants and keeping other precepts to the best of one's ability.
Admission subject to Goenkaji's discretion. Above requirements may change annually. Check with local Areas Teacher for current requirements.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The above are minimum requirements and not a guarantee of admission. Application for admission to each of the 10-Day Special Course, 20-Day Course, 30-Day Course, 45-Day Course, 60-Day Course and the Teacher's Self-course must include a recommendation from an Assistant Teacher who knows you well and a Full Teacher from the student's local area.
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Re: Goenka retreats

Postby rowyourboat » Mon Aug 03, 2009 8:51 am

Thanks Ben
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Re: Goenka retreats

Postby Pannapetar » Mon Aug 03, 2009 10:04 am

Has anyone done a 10-days Goenka retreat? I'd be interested in hearing about it.

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Re: Goenka retreats

Postby Ben » Mon Aug 03, 2009 10:24 am

Hi Thomas

Yes, I've sat about 23 ten-day courses, some long courses and numerous other shorter courses for 'old students'. I've also served a number of courses as well. I'm happy to answer any questions you may have. There are also a few other DW members who have done a course.
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Re: Goenka retreats

Postby Pannapetar » Mon Aug 03, 2009 11:17 am

Yes, I have a number of questions.

1. As far as I know, Goenka retreats are organised and conducted by senior students. I understand that the meditation teachers are also former students. Is there are formal selection process to appoint meditation teachers? What are the criteria?

2. I have heard the retreats have mandatory daily student-teacher interviews. What is the purpose of these interviews?

3. The printed rules of conduct seem a little strict - perhaps even harsh. While much of it is identical to what one finds in a typical Thai monastery setting, it is expected that students comply with the teacher's instructions and there seems to be very little freedom. What if -for example- the teacher insists that you sit in Burmese or Lotus posture if you prefer another posture? What if your body requires stretching excercises after a long session?

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Re: Goenka retreats

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Aug 03, 2009 11:39 am

Hi Pannapeter,

I've only done one retreat (my local teachers at the Thai Wat teach Mahasi-style). But I can say a little.
Pannapetar wrote:Yes, I have a number of questions.
1. As far as I know, Goenka retreats are organised and conducted by senior students. I understand that the meditation teachers are also former students. Is there are formal selection process to appoint meditation teachers? What are the criteria?

Don't know about the criteria, but the instructions and dhamma talks are recorded by Goenka, so what you get is basically the same anywhere. However, there are likely to be differences in how they interpret some of the rules. My retreat was in Hong Kong.

Having said that, the "assistant teacher" on my retreat seemed quite knowledgeable when I had queries.
Pannapetar wrote:2. I have heard the retreats have mandatory daily student-teacher interviews. What is the purpose of these interviews?

Actually, the only mandatory thing was a few seconds every couple of days. Typically something like:
"Can you feel the breath going in and out?" "Yes", "OK".

If I had a question (which I did on a couple of days) I had to put my name down, then I got a few minutes with the teacher. As I said, she seemed to know her stuff. Of course, that's the advantage of the structure of Goenka - everyone is doing the same technique, so the things that happen will be quite predictable. [Same with Mahasi - I see something and report it, and I get: "Oh, yes, X is normal. Did you see Y as well? Try doing Z..."].

Pannapetar wrote:3. The printed rules of conduct seem a little strict - perhaps even harsh. While much of it is identical to what one finds in a typical Thai monastery setting, it is expected that students comply with the teacher's instructions and there seems to be very little freedom. What if -for example- the teacher insists that you sit in Burmese or Lotus posture if you prefer another posture? What if your body requires stretching excercises after a long session?

I don't know about other places, but it was up to us to figure out how to sit. It's Asia - they expect you to just sit... Some people used chairs. No problem stretching. I normally do half walking half sitting so for a while I had to do some stretching but once I started doing the body scanning (on about the third day, I think) it relaxed my body a lot. I spent most of my break time walking, otherwise my body would have packed up...

I actually generally liked the strictness. Nothing worse than fellow retreatants wanting to talk to you... I recall one or two minor annoyances, but that's just the usual challenge to equanimity...

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Re: Goenka retreats

Postby Ben » Mon Aug 03, 2009 11:57 am

Pannapetar wrote:Yes, I have a number of questions.

1. As far as I know, Goenka retreats are organised and conducted by senior students. I understand that the meditation teachers are also former students. Is there are formal selection process to appoint meditation teachers? What are the criteria?

I'm not sure what the selection process is but I think one needs to have sat a 45-day course and qualify for more advanced courses and the person is recommended by other assistant teachers. And with that comes years of maintaining daily practice and a commitment to Dhamma service.
Pannapetar wrote:2. I have heard the retreats have mandatory daily student-teacher interviews. What is the purpose of these interviews?

That's not quite accurate. Interviews are at mid-day,during the lunchbreak, and are completely optional. The purpose is to ask the assistant teachers/teachers a question relating to the meditation technique. During the ten-day course, one is called up to sit in front of the assistant teachers/teachers on two occassions (I think) in groups of four or five (depending on the size of the course) for 'checking', where you are asked how you are going and whether you can maintain awareness of the object (breath for first 3.5 days, sensations for the rest of the course), and then to meditate for a few minutes together.

Pannapetar wrote:3. The printed rules of conduct seem a little strict - perhaps even harsh. While much of it is identical to what one finds in a typical Thai monastery setting, it is expected that students comply with the teacher's instructions and there seems to be very little freedom. What if -for example- the teacher insists that you sit in Burmese or Lotus posture if you prefer another posture? What if your body requires stretching excercises after a long session?

The rules seem stricter than they are. What the rules do is provide an environment where you can get on and meditate without distraction. With respect to the example you gave...it would never happen. The instructions are taped, and Goenkaji says on the first session, perhaps while giving instructions for anapana that one should adopt any posture that is comfortable. Sitting in lotus or any particular posture is not important. You'll also find in many meditation halls at Vipassana Meditation Centres, people using chairs, zazen stools and other sitting 'aids'. There is one proviso to that statement. After the fourth day, Goenkaji gives the instruction that meditators should make a decision with strong determination not to move the legs, open the hands or open the eyes during the three one-hour group sits. Its a challenge for most people and its no big deal if one can't sit for an hour without moving. If one can't maintain the same posture during the one-hour group sits, then one is instructed to move as quietly and slowly as possible, giving attention to the parts of the body in movement.
As far as exercise is concerned, meditators are usually provided with areas to walk on course sites and are given frequent breaks. During these breaks you will encounter other meditators stretching.
Metta

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Re: Goenka retreats

Postby Pannapetar » Mon Aug 03, 2009 12:33 pm

Thank you Mike and Ben,

It is always good to get first-hand information from someone who is very experienced with a subject. It's probably true that these strict rules, such as noble silence, are conducive to the whole exercise. That was my experience as well in other retreats. The great thing about the Goenka retreats is that they are free and thus enable many people to join and learn Vipassana.

Cheers, Thomas
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Re: Goenka retreats

Postby Sanghamitta » Mon Aug 03, 2009 4:15 pm

Just to reinforce what is being said Thomas, I did a 10 day-er in England, and was recovering from a torn knee tendon. Everyone bent over backwards to be accomodating about it and to make sure that I was physically comfortable..


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